The season finale for the top classes of the Pirelli World Challenge Championships did not disappoint. Just 26 points separated the first and second place championship contenders of Johnny O’Connell and Olivier Berretta. The No. 61 Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia of Berretta has been perched on the top of the points standings for much of the year with the No. 3 Cadillac ATS-VR GT3 of O’Connell leading late in the season. The points race has only gotten close after the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma two weeks ago.
The Tatooine-esque backdrop of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca played an excellent host to the action on the track. The 2.2 mile, 11 turn circuit was an excellent choice for the season finale as it features turns known as the Andretti Hairpin, Rahal Straight, and The Corcksrew – the latter most better described as a man-eating Sarlacc.
The Corckscrew was the site of the most important championship-hinging action of the weekend when contact was made between Berretta’s Ferrari and O’Connell’s Cadillac. Both cars went for a spin, but the Ferrari was able to regain speed much more quickly. A drive-through penalty for Berretta did little to compensate for the track position as O’Connell was still a significant distance behind.
The championship battle ended before the race; however, as the No. 61 Ferrari pulled off track at the exit of Turn 11, victim of mechanical attrition. Johnny O’Connell brought home the championship while finishing in twelfth position. The final score was O’Connell 1679 to Berretta 1618. After the race, O’Connell had much to say about the racing that was displayed all season from the R. Ferri Motorsport driver.
The class of the race, however was the dominant display, more of a showcase, of the No. 29 and 30 MOMO/NGT Motorpsort fielded Ferrari 458 GT3 Italias of Alessandro Balzan and Alessandro PierGuidi respectively. The two machines started on the front row and traded positions upon the start as Balzan waltz to an 1-2 for the team. There is something special to be said about seeing a 1-2 finish for the red horses adorned with MOMO Motorsport colors in chrome, yellow, and red. The top five in GT followed with the No. 31 Effort Racing Porsche 911 GT3R of Ryan Dalziel, who also had a great season despite some attendance issues for other obligations, Andy Pilgrim in the No. 8 sister Cadillac, and rookie Michael Lewis in the No. 41 sister Effort Racing Porsche.
Eric Lux claimed the race win in the GTA category in his No. 08 DragonSpeed Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 as team mate Frank Montecalvo finished second, but had already claimed the GTA driver’s championship.
Though he was already crowned GT Cup Championship, Colin Thomspon drove an exciting race to beat Sloan Urry and Alec Udell to the checkered flag. Thomspon had secured the race win after tactfully maneuvering past Udell as O’Connell and Berretta raced past the battle.
The action that unfolded on the sands of Laguna Seca was exemplary of the entire season. Slipstream Network congratulated the champions that were crowned as well as the multiple drivers claiming race wins. The Pirelli World Challenge Championship Banquet will be live streamed tonight at 9:00 PM ET on at www.world-challengetv.com. We hope to learn more about WC Vision’s plans for 2016.
Photos: WC Vision, LLC.